Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Seeing is Believing – Not! 1 Peter 1:8-9

Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls. (RSV )

I think that one of the hardest parts of believing in Jesus is the fact that He isn’t a visible person. As I studied English literature in college, I took a class on fairy tales as literature. The class described how fairy tales change over time. I’ve seen the same things in those urban legends that are passed around on the internet. Someone gets an email and tweaks it a little bit to make it sound a little more realistic for his friends or his neighborhood. A name is changed or a place, most certainly the date so that it appears urgent. This is what I once believed about the Bible and Jesus. I thought that from the time of Jesus, people kept tweaking the Gospels to fit the needs of the time or to make them more acceptable. I believed that Jesus’ appearances after His death were some of the things that were tweaked.

After a thorough study of early manuscripts and other document, of which thousands have been preserved, literary scholars agree that the Bible has not gone through the changes that occur with folk and fairy tales. With that in mind, these two verses celebrate a key in the Christian faith. Even though I have not seen Jesus, I believe in Him but more importantly, I love Him. I believe because of what has been written. It isn’t a faith based on fantasy or speculation. A careful examination of the Gospels and current medical knowledge absolutely confirm that there is no way Jesus could have survived His crucifixion as some skeptics have claimed. Yet He is alive!

The book of Acts was written by a physician and researcher – his accounts are very trustworthy because of his scholarly approach and other historical facts in his writing can be verified. Acts 1:3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. (NIV) I am struck by the fact that Luke says Jesus gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. 1 Cor 15:5-7 says that Jesus appeared to over 500 people. Some of these people were alive when Paul wrote this. The silence of the rest of literature opposing these statements is another proof that Jesus is alive.

With all this proof, I still have to have faith. John 20:29 Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed." (NASB) I consider myself blessed because I haven’t seen Jesus and have believed. There is something inexpressible about knowing that I believe and didn’t require Jesus to appear before me to make me believe. Paul’s experience on the way to Damascus may have been life changing and very dramatic, but he missed the joy of believing without seeing. I’m trying to get words around this but I’m not doing a very good job. That’s probably because Peter was right. In the RSV it is unutterable; in the NIV and others it is inexpressible; in the KJV it is unspeakable. That joy is described as glorious. Just thinking about it gives me a sense of the presence of God from Whom all glory comes. It is inexpressible.

The outcome of this faith is the salvation of my soul. I can think back on the time before I believed and can see that I was lost. For this, I am very thankful.

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